Sponsored each year by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Outstanding Young Farm Family Awards Program recognizes young farmers between the ages of 18 and 35 who do an outstanding job on the farm and in the community.
Division winners representing 10 commodities were selected in February. Of those, six finalists will compete for the title of overall Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2012. The winner will be named at the Federation’s 91st annual meeting in December.
The overall winner will receive thousands of dollars in cash and prizes including: a nicely equipped 2013 Chevrolet or GMC pickup truck, courtesy of Alfa Insurance and Alabama Farmers Federation; a John Deere Gator XUV, courtesy of Alabama Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit; lease of a John Deere tractor, courtesy of SunSouth, TriGreen Equipment and Snead Ag dealers; and a personal computer system from Valcom/CTS Wireless. Alabama’s top young farm family will represent the state in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Achievement Award competition at its January 2013 annual meeting in Nashville.
Three remaining division finalists are featured in this issue.
Television commercials may have the upper-hand on popular taglines today, but Blount County farmer Lance Miller can attest that cotton really is the fabric of his life.
No stranger to Alabama’s king crop, Lance has been in charge of at least two acres of cotton since he was in first grade thanks to a close relationship with his uncle, Federation State Cotton Committee Chairman and Alabama Cotton Commission Vice Chairman Jimmy Miller. It was this experience, he said, that seared the image of farming on his brain.
“I’ve been going to the fields since I was two,” said Lance who, alongside wife Stephanie and 16-month-old son Reed, was named the overall finalist in the Cotton Division of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Outstanding Young Farm Family contest. “(Aunt) Nell used to babysit me, and I’d spend as much time with Jimmy as I could. One year, he gave me two acres, and that was the first cotton I ever had. He showed me how much money it took to put in the crop, and I made $180 an acre that year. To me, I was in high cotton.”
When Lance returned home from Jacksonville State University in 2005, he knew farming was what he wanted to do. With six generations of farming preceding him, he’s quick to say the decision was a lifestyle choice — and it’s proven to be a busy lifestyle, at that. Today, Lance and Stephanie grow 660 acres of cotton, 160 acres of peanuts, 55 acres of corn and 85 acres of soybeans. They also manage and operate four poultry houses and recently went into the cattle business, adding 25 brood cows on 40 acres. In spite of her adaptability, Stephanie says she never dreamed she’d work in agriculture.
“I never intended on being a farmer, let alone a farmer’s wife,” said Stephanie, who manages the broiler houses. “But this is what I’m supposed to do, learning curve and all.”
In addition to their on-farm activities, the Millers are also strong advocates for agriculture. To ensure the rural sector has a team of trained emergency medical personnel, they’ve hosted a series of farm safety and extrication seminars on their farm with the help of the Blount County’s Young Farmers Committee. Tapping into her creative side, Stephanie also blogs about daily happenings on the farm. Her story, which has nearly 100 fans and reaches countless others, can be accessed by visiting http://thelifeofafarmerswife.blogspot.com.
“So many people have no idea where their food comes from. They only see the bad things on the news, but that’s not how 99 percent of the farms really are,” she said. “I started the blog to show people what we do, and they seem to really enjoy it.”
Away from the farm, the Millers are active with Grace Baptist Church and the Blount County Farmers Federation’s Young Farmers Committee. Lance is a member of the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, the Blount County Poultry Committee, the Blount County Cotton Committee and Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.